By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
On the night of March 17, 1990, the previous and only time Esta Hill and her band, Lava Love, played Miami, they destroyed me. Ripped my brain out and shot hoops with it. Hill's stage frantics make that leaping toad Axl Rose look like a paraplegic. Or, as William Blake might say, "My mother groaned! my father wept, Into the dangerous world I leapt: Helpless, naked, piping loud: Like a fiend hid in a cloud." Close Billy, very close.
At the time of their Churchill's Hideaway revelation, the Lava Lovers were behind their debut album Whole Lava Love, a Mitch Easter-produced buzzfest with titles like "Last Rites for Mr. Wrong" and lyrics like this one from "Love Rock": "This man made mad sorcery out of me/I don't cotton to no necromancy/ Danced around some voodoo...." Forget it, buy the damn record.
The seventh song Lava Love played in their first Miami show was probably the highlight. Its title is "I Dig, You Dug." My brother Doug went with me to the show and he liked it a lot. On the setlist, which I grabbed from the stage afterward, the Lovers spelled it "Doug." Esta Hill says they spell it all different ways and makes clear she's not really interested in pursuing this line of questioning. Also on the setlist they wrote "Perfect Girl" for their song "Perfect Gurl." Spelling counts, Esta. "So anyway," Hill says by phone, "our new drummer is [ex-Fetchin Bones stick man] Clay Richardson. The other guy wanted to be a star. Now. He wanted the limos and fame and everything. Now, some of our influences would include..." Oh, shut up.
When People magazine wrote about Lava Love, the mag stated that keyboardist Dianna "Cookie" Brindle added "his spaced-out fills." Cookie is a gurl. "It kinda hurt her feelings," Hill says. "Must have been a typo." Musta been.
So the point is, in the second LP, Aphrodisia's, Side Two opener, "Sayonara," Paul Bracken's bass and Drew Cavins's guitar make Hill's technicolor dreams feel as real as seductive, bone-breaking rock songs get. The tune skits and skats and rattles the soul like thunder, lightening licks strike twice, chug-chug bass - go! They can dance and play and sing, even Blake knows that, but don't let those virtues shadow the brilliant writing: Fourteen tracks. Not a clunker among 'em. Buy this damn record, too. "Go!" was the third song they played on March 17, 1990. The fourth was "My Downfall," which is on the new record. The fifth was "Suzy Keeps Telling Me." It's on the new release, too. If this hook/song jumper doesn't kick your ass, your head must be in the way. "It's a raw rocker," Hill explains.
No duh, Esta. Now here's where it gets weird.
What will likely be the most potent, impressive, groovy live set during the four-day Miami Rocks, Too! showcases will not be played by a local (Florida) band. Lava Love's second-ever Miami concert takes place Friday, which means it competes directly with Rocks's prime-time. Esta Hill is a panelist at Rocks's East Coast Music Forum the following day. What to do, what to do? "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy," suggests Blake. Now I know full well I could never influence a record-biz snotshot to do anything besides sue or shoot me, but I will advise them all to stay at the Rocks showcase on Friday night and leave Lava Love to the people who finance the music.
"I'm the most realistic member of the band," Hill asserts. "I don't believe the cigar guys. I believe in the regular people who buy our records."
The Lovers have become road warriors, Hill adds, and it took awhile to make the second album because they wanted to get the new drummer into full rocking mode. "It's been hectic lately," the singer says. "I guess there's no more rest for the wicked." (She sounds pretty wicked in "Strange Movie," especially the part about the daisy chain when she goes "uh-uh-uh." But you'll hear it yourself when you buy the damn record or see the show.)
Having hectic days and nights is the price of being one of America's most lively, exciting, smart, entertaining, brain-squashing bands. In the new album's liner notes, Lava Love quotes Blake: "Exuberance is beauty." Hill says that encapsulates her group, how beauty can be found in all sorts of places.
Like on the stage of Churchill's Hideaway this Friday.
Other stuff: There's more good music to choose from this weekend than there ever is at any other time. Miami Rocks, Too! could fill ten people's agendas, with rooms (and bands) to spare. Read "Club" listings and spread out. It's unfair to pick and choose here, but a few gigs, not necessarily connected to Rocks, that I think are worth noting: Natural Causes at the Island Club on Friday. Forbidden Pigs at Tobacco Road Friday and Saturday. YakMan and the Rhythm Method at Hooligan's Fort Apache on Friday. Zombie Birdhouse at the Island Club on Saturday. Nitzer Ebb Monday at Button South. Drivin' 'n' Cryin' with Follow for Now on Tuesday, also at the Button.